What instrument should I play?

By Posted in - Beginning Band and Orchestra on August 15th, 2014 0 Comments

What instrument should I play?

It’s a bit of a loaded question, but a very important one for many beginning band and orchestra students at this time of year.

I’m going to start answering this question by asking another one:  what instruments are used in my school’s music program?

Some schools offer both a band and orchestra program and some only offer one or the other.  Here is the breakdown of instruments used in a beginning band or orchestra program.

Band Program                     Orchestra Program


Saxophone (Alto is most common)







French Horn





Double Bass

This is the listing of instruments that you can play in band or orchestra.  The instruments in bold print are the most common instruments in beginning music programs.  The instruments in regular print are included in the band and orchestra, but not all teachers include them in a beginning music program.

Now that we know what instruments are available to us and we have signed up for the correct class at school we go to the next question:  what instruments do I like the best?

Are there one or two instruments that you just can’t resist?  You love the sound it makes and the way it looks and feels in your hands?  Well, this is a great place to start.  Warning, don’t just limit yourself to these options.  The perfect instrument for you may not be what you initially expected.

We’ve got a great starting point for our instrument selection.  Let’s do a test play to see what it feels like to make a sound on each instrument.  A play test on your favorite instruments will help you to answer this question:  can I make a sound on it easily?

The last thing any new music student wants to do is struggle to make a sound while the rest of the class progresses and learns new notes.  It is always a good idea to choose an instrument that is easy for you to make a sound.

If you absolutely must play that one special instrument that is a little more difficult for you at first, be prepared to spend extra time at home practicing to gain the technique you need to make a sound.  It would also be worth investing in private music lessons with a professional musician on your chosen instrument.  A private teacher can help you get that sound faster because they have 100% of their attention on you to help you succeed.

Another important question to consider while choosing your instrument:  how heavy/big is it?

You would be surprised by the number of students that switch instruments or quit playing all together because of the size or weight of their chosen instrument.  The way I like to put it is this: when you choose to play an instrument you are committing to lug it around with you every day back and forth to school and home so you can practice.

Instrument Light Heavy Big Medium Small
Violin X X
Viola X X
Cello X X
Double Bass X X
Flute X X
Oboe X X
Clarinet X X
Alto Sax X X
Trumpet X X
Trombone X X
Bariton/Euphonium X X
Bassoon X X
Tuba X X
Percussion X X


The above chart shows the general reactions I have received from students over the past several years about the size and weight of the various band and orchestra instruments.

Still can’t decide?

If you still can’t decide which instrument is the right one for you after trying out a few different ones and thinking about the size and sound of them you should talk to your music teacher.  Your music teacher will be your number one resource for all of your musical questions.  They are in music class with your student and will have great suggestions for you.

You can also stop by your local Miles Ahead Music location, call, or post your questions to this blog.  We are happy to help in any way that we can.

All of you pros and teachers out there…feel free to post your instrument selection tips in the comments below.

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